TEA, OR RON?
|My favorite mode of travel is flying, and one of the prime
reasons is the great attention from most flight attendants.
Do any older readers remember Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA), one of the first discount airlines that operated from 1949-1988?
Flight attendants in those days were called stewardesses and two of them, Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones, (along with Donald Bain) wrote a memoir, “Coffee, Tea or Me? The Uninhibited Memoirs of Two Airline Stewardesses,” that confirmed every fantasy men had about these ladies.
There were few male attendants and many were stereotyped as being gay.
Too many passengers think of flight attendants as being waitresses because airlines decided to include serving of food and beverages to passengers as an added duty.
The FAA requires that a flight attendant work on planes that have 20 or more seats. They must go through rigorous training and re-training for certification. They are equipped to aid passengers in case of emergency evacuation, with firefighting, first aid, response to security threats, and insuring that all safety measures are followed, including seat belts being buckled, and electronic hardware being shut off during takeoffs and landings.
Surprisingly, I recently learned that there is no age limit for flight attendants flying domestic. I learned this from 82-year-old Ron Akana, the oldest working flight attendant, whom I was fortunate to meet.
United Airlines hired Ron on Dec. 16, 1949 when he was still a student at the University of Hawai‘i.
Among Ron’s most memorable flights is one in which cast members from the movie “From Here to Eternity” flew from Los Angeles to Honolulu. He was a big Burt Lancaster fan. Everyone, including Frank Sinatra, could not match Burt as he consumed martini after martini. The flight in those days took 10 hours, so there was time for lots of carousing.
Another flight he remembers fondly was a charter flight taking Bing Crosby and the cast of “Wide World of Golf” to inaugurate a golf course on Maui. Ron is a golf fanatic and he was able to play on the course, too.
Ron likes to travel on his time off and has enjoyed trips to Hong Kong, Sydney and Auckland. He now works a schedule once a week. He usually flies from Denver or San Francisco or Los Angeles to and from Hawai‘i on weekends.
He lives in Boulder, Colo. with his wife, Betsy, who was also a flight attendant for a short time. Their daughter is following in her parents’ footsteps by also working as a flight attendant for United.
Ron will likely retire this year, so look for him if you travel to Hawai‘i on United and be sure to say “aloha” for me. If he is not on-board, ask any flight attendant if they know him and then watch their face light up.